A standalone 5G network is a network that uses a 5G core and a 5G radio access network, without relying on any 4G infrastructure. It is the next generation of 5G technology, which is expected to offer improved performance, reliability, latency, coverage, security, and efficiency.
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Standalone 5G Networks explained for non-technical people
A standalone 5G network is a new way of connecting your phone to the internet that does not use any old technology. It is faster, more reliable, and more secure than the other kind of 5G network, which uses 4G infrastructure. It also allows different kinds of services and devices to use the internet in different ways, depending on their needs.
For example, a self-driving car needs a very fast and stable connection, while a smart watch needs a low-power connection. A standalone 5G network can create these different connections on the same network. However, a standalone 5G network is also very expensive and complicated to build and use, and it may not work well with older phones and networks. Which is why many 5G networks are non-standalone i.e. they use existing 4G infrastructure.
If you are a more technical person, to any degree, you will be interested in more details, and we have them for you below. If you are not technical, you will find a lot of the information below difficult to process.
Standalone 5G Networks vs Non-Standalone 5G Networks
You can deploy a 5G network in two ways – the first is by using existing 4G LTE infrastructure (4G core), while the second is by rolling out 5G infrastructure (5G core). The former is called a non-standalone 5G network, while the latter is a standalone network. Let’s look at more details of how they differ:
- A standalone 5G network uses a 5G core and a 5G radio access network, while a non-standalone 5G network uses a 4G core and a 5G radio access network.
- A standalone 5G network can support more advanced features and services, such as ultra-reliable low latency communications, network slicing, and cloud-native technologies, while a non-standalone 5G network is mainly focused on enhanced mobile broadband.
- A standalone 5G network requires more investment and deployment of new infrastructure and devices, while a non-standalone 5G network can leverage existing 4G infrastructure and resources.
Apart from standalone and non-standalone, there are also different types of 5G networks based on the frequency range they use. These are:
- Low-band 5G: This type of 5G network uses frequencies below 1 GHz and provides wide coverage and good penetration, but lower speeds and capacity than other types of 5G networks.
- Mid-band 5G: This type of 5G network uses frequencies between 1 GHz and 6 GHz and provides a balance between speed, capacity, and coverage, but may face some interference and congestion issues.
- High-band 5G: This type of 5G network uses frequencies above 24 GHz and provides very high speeds, capacity, and latency, but has a very short range and is easily blocked by obstacles.
Some of the benefits of a standalone 5G network are:
- It can support ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), which are essential for applications such as autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, and industrial automation.
- It can enable network slicing, which is the ability to create virtual networks with different characteristics and quality of service for different use cases and customers.
- It can leverage cloud-native technologies, such as microservices and containers, to make the network more flexible, scalable, and resilient.
- It can reduce the battery consumption of devices, as they do not need to switch between 4G and 5G connections.
Some of the disadvantages of a standalone 5G network are:
- It requires a significant investment in new infrastructure, software, and devices, which may take time and resources to deploy and optimize.
- It may face compatibility and interoperability issues with existing 4G networks and devices, especially in areas where 5G coverage is not available or consistent.
- It may pose new security and privacy challenges, as it exposes more data and functions to the network edge and the cloud, which may require more advanced encryption and protection mechanisms.
How It Works
A standalone 5G network works by using a 5G New Radio (NR) access network, which is a set of standards that replaces the LTE network 4G wireless communications standard.
The 5G NR access network operates on two frequency ranges: Frequency Range 1 (FR1), which overlaps and extends 4G frequencies from 450 MHz to 6,000 MHz, and Frequency Range 2 (FR2), which operates at a much higher 24,250 MHz (~24GHz) to 52,600 MHz (~52GHz)1. The 5G NR access network connects to a 5G core network, which is based on a service-based architecture (SBA) that uses cloud-native technologies and protocols.
The 5G core network consists of several network functions (NFs) that provide different services and capabilities, such as authentication, session management, policy control, data forwarding, and network exposure. The 5G core network also supports network slicing, which allows the creation of multiple logical networks on top of the same physical infrastructure, each with its own performance and quality of service requirements.